This is the start of a series of blogs which have been formulating within the grey matter for a number of months. While I and other family members have taken photos across hundreds of NSW locations over the past five decades, perhaps the most thematically interesting has been the series taken in our own backyard – so to speak.
I speak of a location just south of North Wollongong station, where the South Coast railway line rolled past my paternal grandparents’ home. From a gate in the back fence one could step out onto the Railway’s land to watch trains pass. Often there was insufficient time to unbolt the gate so it was necessary to just hang over the fence.
For a child, a four foot high paling fence was fairly impregnable so one had to rely on assistance. Taller kids could stand on the upturned buffer which had been planted adjacent to the gate. Slightly shorter kids used the buffer as a step up into a soil-filled ‘dunny can’ which was growing mint. Or one could rely on adult assistance, which I did from the youngest age. As can be seen from the next photograph, this blogger was made pretty comfortable at this location from fairly early on – thank you uncles!
The lack of warning about trains from the north was counterbalanced by trains headed to Sydney. From several steps out onto the railway property it was possible to see the mile or so south to Wollongong Station.
For many years, seasoned train hunters at this location had their best warning about approaching trains by just looking southwards about 400 yards or so. There, until its demise in the mid-1980s, the Gipps Street level crossing stood – making it a relatively simple task to see whether the boom gates were positioned at the vertical or had been lowered.
Now, before we launch into a few of this collection, there is nothing particularly stunning about the location or many of the photographic compositions. They are prosaic scenes, made less so by the passage of time. The sun rose in the morning – meaning that morning photographs were usually backlit, and many photos were very hurriedly composed using both a manual focus and light meter. And then time has deteriorated the colours and sharpness of the details in many photographs.
However, taken together the photos encapsulate a pretty good experience of workings across four decades from 1960 onwards. I am grateful to those who snapped away when photography was a relatively expensive hobby. Coming into the backyard there was always a heightened expectation that something was going to come by, just if the back gate was open. Often the family camera could be seen hanging off a fence paling and more than once I recall seeing the camera hooked around the neck of a family member mowing lawns or gardening.
Enough reminiscing! Lets start with the very ordinary (in the nice sense). It is a 30 class tank headed north with the morning pick-up in the early 1960s. The S wagons at the head of the train are likely to be for Thirroul, but may have been shunted off before then.
On another day, 3093 does the honours with the same train.
Books on the subject note the affinity 32 class locomotives had with Illawarra workings. They were ideally suited for the role, with good acceleration and the ability to climb with decent loads. In the next photograph, 3227 heads to Sydney with a consist typical for the early 1960s.
In the afternoon, the schoolies’ train ran with whatever loco was available at Thirroul depot. On this day, thought to be in 1964, 5273 heads the schoolies’ south to Kiama. There are few items of interest to note with this photo, including the ‘tuscan and russet’ livery on the first carriage.
Also notable is the sizeable passionfruit vine over the wood shed and the use of railway sleepers as fence posts. Keen eyed viewers will note a juvenile eucalyptus tree growing in the railway corridor. This tree is absent in later photographs, for which the official line is to express appreciation to the authorities for its removal. I am sure that that is precisely what happened!
And to finish up on this post, its time for a doubleheader. I do not have immediate access to my learned counsel on this one, so I am making an informed guess that 3034 is light attached in order for it to work the Moss Vale ‘squirt’ out of Wollongong after the P class heads further south. The thing I find most interesting about this photograph is the laconic manner of the two firemen on the locos, seemingly having a chat down the length of the P class.
Plenty more to come so please stay tuned!